Invariant NKT (iNKT) cells are critical to the maintenance of tolerance toward alloantigens encountered during postnatal life pointing to the existence of a process for self-education. However, the impact of developmentally encountered alloantigens in shaping the phenotype and function of iNKT cells has not been described. To better understand this process, the current report examined naïve iNKT cells as they matured in an allogeneic environment. Following the prenatal transfer of fetal hematopoietic cells between age-matched allogeneic murine fetuses, cell-extrinsic signals appeared to dictate allospecific patterns of Ly49 receptor expression and lineage diversity in developing iNKT cells. Regulation for this process arose from cells of hematopoietic origin requiring only rare exposure to facilitate broad changes in developing iNKT cells. These findings highlight surprisingly asymmetric allospecific alterations in iNKT cells as they develop and mature in an allogeneic environment and establish a new paradigm for study of the self-education of iNKT cells.
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